Last year’s FY23 defense budget request received significant pushback from Congress. The administration originally requested $773 billion for the Pentagon and projected a defense budget of $801 billion in FY24, with Pentagon coffers reaching $834 billion by FY28. That plan would have resulted in a growth rate of only 1.5 percent from FY23 to FY28, and lawmakers found that insufficient, citing the demands of the great power competition. So they added $45 billion to the final FY23 appropriations bill.
Now, the Pentagon’s FY24 budget request seeks $842 billion, an increase of $26 billion (or 3.2 percent) over the FY23 enacted base budget. The new request increases the projected annual average growth rate marginally to 2.1 percent between FY24 and FY28, before adjusting for inflation. The FY24 request is $42 billion higher than the amount projected under the FY23 spending plan and also provides $297 billion more for defense between FY24 and FY28 than last year’s outlook.Keep in mind that this growth rate does not include the nearly $36 billion in supplemental funding for Ukraine passed in FY23. The FY24 request mostly deferred Ukraine security assistance funding, so the total FY24 topline will likely increase via supplemental spending bills throughout the year.
Despite the significant increase, defense hawks in Congress still argue the budget request is insufficient, calling for more funding to bolster advanced weapons development and to offset the impact of inflation.
Procurement and RDT&E Funding
The FY24 request includes $170 billion for procurement and $145 billion for research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E), for a total of $315 billion for acquisition programs.
Both procurement and RDT&E accounts saw massive injections of funding from Congress over the past two budget cycles, resulting in a combined funding growth of $57 billion between FY21 and FY23. Lawmakers may also add funding as they debate the FY24 request, but any increases likely won’t be as steep as they were in FY22 and FY23.Army Procurement
The FY24 request includes $24.5 billion for Army procurement, which is $2.3 billion below the FY23 enacted level. The steepest cuts are $1 billion for ammunition, $836 million for aircraft, and $739 million for weapons and vehicles. However, the service sees a jump of $309 million for missiles.
The decline in ammunition funding stems from the $1.2 billion in supplemental spending added in FY23 to replenish ammo sent to Ukraine. Additional ammunition funding will likely materialize in FY24. At the same time, Congress added nearly $1 billion for aircraft and over $900 million for weapons and vehicles in FY23, contributing to the drop in funding in the FY24 request.
Despite the decline compared to enacted levels, the Army’s FY24 procurement request is $889 million higher than expected under the previous spending plan. The biggest increase is for missiles, while the weapons and vehicles account is actually $736 million lower than planned.
Unlike the Army’s request, the Navy’s procurement budget request is higher than both the FY23 enacted level and the Pentagon’s own budget forecast. The service wants $76.9 billion for procurement in FY24, an increase of $4.3 billion over what Congress provided last year and $7.1 billion more than the administration originally anticipated for FY24.
The spending growth can be attributed primarily to warships and weapons. The shipbuilding account is $894 million above the FY23 enacted level and $3.9 billion more than planned under last year’s budget. The higher funding is tied primarily to the Virginia class submarine (one of the two subs will feature the Virginia Payload Module) and the completion of prior-year shipbuilding programs. At the same time, the Navy’s weapons account is $2.1 billion higher than the enacted level and $1.3 billion more than planned.
The service’s $17.3 billion request for aircraft is in line with projections, but it falls $1.7 billion below the enacted level because Congress added funding for F-35s and Super Hornets in FY23.
Air Force Procurement
The Air Force’s FY24 request includes $61.7 billion for procurement, which is $2.0 billion above the FY23 enacted level and $4.6 billion more than projected in the FY23 spending plan. Most of the difference is due to the service’s Other Procurement account, which also serves as a pass-through for classified funding for other agencies. Missile procurement, meanwhile, is $2.5 billion higher than the FY23 enacted level and $1.7 billion higher than expected under last year’s budget. The service is using new multiyear procurement authorities to maximize the production of JASSM-ER, AMRAAM, and LRASM missiles.
Aircraft funding for FY24 declined by $1.9 billion from FY23, and the aircraft account is $870 million lower than planned. B-21 procurement funding comes in well below the projected amount, and aircraft modification funding has declined as the Air Force seeks to retire older airframes. However, the Air Force is buying more F-35s than expected, while also extending F-15EX procurement by an additional year.
The FY24 request continues a trend seen in recent years of substantially increasing research and development funding. The Pentagon wants $145 billion for RDT&E in FY24, which is $5.3 billion above FY23 enacted levels and $10.6 billion more than the projected amount from the FY23 request.
The Space Force comes out on top here, with a research budget that is $2.6 billion higher than the amount provided by Congress last year and $2.4 billion more than previously planned. The investment highlights the critical nature of space assets in future fights.
The Navy, Air Force, and Defense-Wide accounts also fare well, with research budgets that surpass both earlier projections and FY23 enacted levels. The Army’s $15.8 billion request is $2.2 billion more than expected when compared to last year’s projections, but it falls short by $1.4 billion compared to the FY23 enacted level. Also note that Congress added a massive $3.4 billion for Army research and development last year to bolster the service’s original $13.7 billion request.
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